The Wedell-Williams Model 44 is a racing aircraft, four examples of which were built in the United States in the early 1930s by the Wedell-Williams Air Service Corporation. It began as a rebuilding of the partnership's successful We-Will 1929 racer, but soon turned into a completely new racing monoplane aircraft, powered by a large radial engine. Model 44s became the dominant racers of the 1930s, setting innumerable records including setting a new world speed record in 1933. The only surviving Model 44 is on display at the Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum, Cleveland, Ohio. Three replica Model 44s are on display at the Louisiana State Museum, Patterson, Louisiana.
The Howard DGA-6 was a pioneer racing plane, nicknamed "Mister Mulligan." It was the only airplane ever designed for the specific purpose of winning the Bendix Trophy. The plane was designed and developed by Benny Howard and Gordon Israel, who later became an engineer for the Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation. Mister Mulligan was designed to fly the entire length of the race nonstop and at high altitude; neither had ever been done before. Mister Mulligan won the trophy, and thus changed the way in which long distance airplanes were designed.
Quote Modify Split this topic starting with this message as the first message in a new topic, followed by the other posts until the last post added to this thread. Remove "This Bud's 4U" Super Corsair Enthusiastically-prepared during a short span of only a few months by The Planes of Fame gang (including the legendary- 'Chino Kids') & many very-talented friends, using a boneyard F4U-1 Corsair - this old veteran warhorse was magically-transformed into a potent 'Homebrew' F2G Super Corsair Unlimited air racer in time for pylon combat at Reno '82. Registered in the 'Experimental' category as NX31518, Race #1 was the first P&W R-4360 corncob racer to see action since the Post-WW2 Thompson Trophy events in Cleveland. She attracted a Budweiser sponsorship for the 1982-83 race seasons, and gave fans a wonderful dozen-year career of Unlimited air racing thrills that included a Reno Gold Championship at Reno '85, before her untimely loss (w/successful pilot bailout) at the '94 innaugural Phoenix 500 Air Races.
Dago Red is a North American P-51 Mustang (44-74996), restored as a competitive air racer by Frank Taylor in 1981. Dago Red holds several world records, including the 15 km (517.323 mph) set in 1983. Frank Taylor piloted the plane to most of its world records in the 1980s.
Six time winner of the National Championship Air Races (1982, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002 and 2003)
Mojave, California 1983 - World Speed Record 15 km (517.323 mph) Unlimited Reno Air Races 1982 -
Gold Winner Reno Air Races 2003 - Thompson Trophy, Fastest Lap (512.164 mph), Fastest Race (507.105 mph)
Reno Air Races 2001 - Fastest Qualifying Speed (497.797 mph)
CLICK ON PICTURE AT RIGHT TO GO TO PAGE
Tsunami was an experimental purpose-built racing aircraft designed and built in the United States during the 1980s. After a short undistinguished career Tsunami crashed, killing its designer, John Sandberg, on 25 September 1991. After 6 long years of building the aircraft was first flown 17 August 1986 by test pilot Steve Hinton, was designed specifically to break the 3 km world speed record for propeller driven aircraft by a private pilot and to compete in the Unlimited class at the Reno Air Races. The aircraft was designed by Bruce Boland an aerospace engineer employed by Lockheed Martin, John R. Sandberg owner of JRS Enterprises Inc, that rebuilt Allison, Rolls Royce, Merlin aircraft engines along with Lockheed engineer Pete Law and builder Ray Poe. Tsunami, powered by a Rolls-Royce Merlin engine, was designed and built by John R. Sandberg and the JRS Enterprise Inc. team, exceeded 500 mph (430 kn; 800 km/h). Originally, it was designed as a light-weight racer with a single-staged supercharged Rolls-Royce Merlin. However, as speed increased in the Unlimited Racing Class, a higher powered two-stage supercharged Rolls-Royce Merlin was installed. An attempt was made in August 1989 to break the 3 km (1.9 mi) world speed record at Wendover Utah with a private pilot at the controls. Due to a landing gear collapse the aircraft was unable to beat the existing record. CLICK ON PICTURE ON RIGHT TO GO TO PAGE
“Strega” is a highly modified P–51 Mustang, owned by Reno’s legend Bill “Tiger” Destefani, the name of the airplane means ” Witch “ in Italian. The aircraft original operator was the Royal Australian Air Force (A68-679) from July 4 1945 until December 22, 1948. The same year it was approved for disposal. From 1996 until 1981 the aircraft was on display at the Warbirds Aviation Museum, Mildura, Victoria, .In 1980 Dave Zeuschel purchased and shipped it to USA and rebuilt as racer. In 1983 the new owner Bill “Tiger” Destefani acquired the aircraft as N71FT “Strega”. Click on picture on right to go to the page.
Mr. Awesome was a highly modified Soviet Yak-11 WWII fighter, built for Joe Kasperoff by Matt Jackson and the talented group of air-race enthusiasts of Van Nuys California . The aircraft sported a 3,700 hp Wright R-3350 Turbo - Compound radial engine (equipped with Power Recovery Turbines), swinging a broad-bladed prop from a Douglas Skyraider. In an attempt to balance out the vast weight increase at the front of the beast, the aircraft’s fuselage was lengthened aft of the wings. Skip Holm piloted this aircraft to it’s first Reno qualifier at a speed of 417 mph. Not the fastest of the lot, but quite respectable. During the first heat race it was discovered that there were some serious shortcomings in the stability department when Skip encountered some wake turbulence, causing the aircraft to visibly wobble. Skip flew the remainder of the race with caution but still posted an average speed of 406 mph. The aircraft was parked for the remainder of the event.
Bob Yancey was one of the first to see this and seized the opportunity. His Yak-11 trainer featured extensive race modifications, including a metalized fuselage, low drag canopy, American systems, and a powerful race modified R2800 mounted up front. With well over 2,000 horsepower available, Yancey's diminutive Yak-11 first appeared at Reno 1988 as race #101, Perestroika, and immediately began turning high lap speeds. Looking far more like a traditional racer than it’s rivals, Perestroika was the first Soviet airplane to have an impact on American air racing..
"Maniyak" was Asher Ward's plane. That photo is from 1987 with the Long EZ canopy on it. It was purchased by Tom Camp and for a few years had a stock canopy put on it. Then he put a bigger motor in it and converted it to a single seater. He raced it until 2002 or so and then sold it to a gentleman named Jim Nezgoda. Mr. Nezgoda had already rolled one Yak up in a ball at Reno in the late '90's, but when Tom tried to give him a cockpit checkout he replied "I'm a professional pilot...I don't need one", and then proceeded to lose directional control on takeoff from Ione on the first flight....and wrecked that one too. The wreckage was purchased by William Lewallen in Arizona, rebuilt as a two-seater, and flies regularly. Hasn't raced again, though.
The Scaled Composites Pond Racer (Company designation Model 158) was a twin-engine twin-boom aircraft developed for Bob Pond by Burt Rutan and his company Scaled Composites. Bob Pond commissioned the design with the idea of developing a modern aircraft that could compete with the vintage warbirds in the Unlimited Class at the Reno air races. Bob Pond was concerned that each year at the Reno Air Races, valuable and historic aircraft were being crashed and destroyed, not to mention many engines being damaged or wrecked beyond repair. The Pond Racer was hoped to be an alternative to vintage aircraft like the P-51 Mustang and the Hawker Sea Fury that would be as fast and spectacular in the air as the warbirds.
1931 Gee Bee Y Sportster
The Gee Bee Y was slightly larger than earlier Gee Bee racers and was distinctive for having two seats and the front windshield could be removed, with the cockpit faired over for racing. Like other “Sportsters,” it was a wire-braced low-wing monoplane of conventional construction, with open cockpits and fixed undercarriage.
Only two Y-models were built by the Granville brothers, who originally intended them to be used as company planes and support aircraft for their “R” series racers.
However, when the first one fell into the hands of speedster Maud Tait, daughter of one of the Granvilles’ earliest investors, it became a racer in its own right—winning the Cleveland Pneumatic Aero Trophy Race for her. The Gee Bee Y was also a favorite for another fearless female pilot, Florence Klingensmith, who flew it with a Wright Whirlwind engine of double the original horsepower to second place in the Women’s Free-for-All at the 1933 Chicago International Races. Once this aircraft entered the race circuit, it rarely finished outside the money. A noted Gee Bee authority claims the Model Ys won more races and made more money than the better known, purpose built Gee Bee racers! Neither of the two original aircraft exists.
1931 Gee Bee Z
The Great Depression was tough on the aircraft industry, especially the sale of luxuries like the small sport planes the Granville Brothers built in Springfield, Massachusetts. The decision was made to build a racer for the Cleveland Air Races in hopes that prize money could help support their dwindling sales. Bob Hall started engineering the first racer in July of 1931.
It was named the Gee Bee after its builders, the Granville Brothers. In less than 6 weeks “The City of Springfield” made its first flight at a cost of less than $5,000. The Gee Bee would be flown by expert pilot Lowell Bayles and won every race it entered, including the Shell Speed Dash at 267.34 mph and the famous Thompson Trophy pylon race. They more than recouped their original investment.
The remarkable Gee Bees have withstood decades of controversy due to a number of high profile crashes in the ‘30s, including one that ended Bayles’s life; however, these spectacular airplanes also came to represent the highest achievement of the American spirit during the darkest days of the Great Depression. Other notable Gee Bee racing aviators included James Doolittle of Tokyo Raiders fame and record-breaking female speedster Maud Tait, both of whom lived long and colorful lives after they retired from their thrilling Gee Bee racing days.
1932 Gee Bee R-2
This Gee Bee Super Sportster R-2 was built and flown by Delmar Benjamin and is a replica of the famed Granville Brothers Gee Bee racer. It has been seen all across North America and Europe, flying a hair-raising routine to the delight of aviation minded audiences. Powered by a Pratt & Whitney R-985 engine, the Gee Bee Super Sportster R-2 is identical to the original, which was built specifically to compete in the popular air races of 1932. The R-2 competed in the cross country Bendix Race. A similar but slightly larger design with a Pratt & Whitney R-1340 engine was dubbed the R-1, which competed in the Thompson Trophy Race, a pylon event. Of the two, the R-2 is sleeker, with a more tapered engine cowl the larger power plant in the R-1 would not allow. Together they were the fastest land planes of their day. Gee Bees competed in all the popular airplane races of the Golden Age. These highly engineered, tear-shaped, super planes required a skillful hand and perfect circumstances, but with the right pilot, they ruled the sky. Unfortunately, no original Gee Bees airplanes survived the rough-and-tumble racing years, but their unique appearance and pedigree have sustained their popularity. The Gee Bees here at Fantasy of Flight are among the few replicas that actually fly.
The Gee Bee Sportster
Excerpt from the 1931 Sales brochure by Z.D. Granville
Hop off in this trim little Gee Bee Sportster. Up 5000 feet in less than five minutes. Speed along at 125 mph. Give her the gun to 150 if you wish. Cut the gun, drop the controls - she's in a 60 mile per hour glide. Open the throttle. Level flight again. Speed. Stability. You never knew so much fun. You'll marvel at her maneuverability. And does she stand up! This little ship came in second in the Great All American Air Derby - first of all the stock planes. Note her trim streamline beauty. Admire her sturdy safe construction. Here's the airplane you would love to own. Ideally adaptable for sport, speed, business or pleasure. Consider the many exclusive features of the new Gee Bee Sportster. The careful engineering and workmanship which make it so fast and safe. Note its extremely low price for such a beautifully built airplane. Here is the speed ship that will give you the greatest thrill in flying. Overcoming all sorts of hardships in the long dangerous grind over mountains and deserts of the west, pilot Lowell R. Bayles of Springfield, Mass. brought in his stock Gee Bee Sportster to win second place in this national classic. The Gee Bee Sportster was the first stock ship to finish. The great victory of the Gee Bee Sportster over 18 famous ships and famous pilots is the best recommendation for the many unusual characteristics of speed and endurance described within this folder. (There are photos of a Model D built under ATC 404 and a Model E built under ATC 398) ENGINE INSTALLATION The Menasco Pirate C-4, 125 hp or Warner 110 hp or Fairchild 6-390 130 hp or Cirrus Hi-Drive 95 hp engines are used in all stock Gee Bee Sportsters. Other engines will be furnished on special order. Engine mounts built especially stiff, reducing vibration to a minimum.
The Nicholas-Beazley Pobjoy Special aka the Nicholas-Beazley Phantom I, aka the Wittman Phantom, aka the Flagg Phantom, aka the Reaver Special was a world record holding air racer of the 1930s.
The Nicholas-Beazley Airplane Company had imported a Pobjoy Airmotors engine with a gear reduction unit for use in its new design the Nicholas-Beazley NB-3. Designer Robert T. Jones computed the weight and balance for the setup and proposed a new design as an air-racer. Claude Flagg and H. F. Landis built the aircraft in their spare time and patented the wing design.
The fuselage is welded steel with fabric covering. The wings used an early application of lightweight aluminum construction with U shaped cantilever spars with wire bracing and fabric covering. The aircraft used wheels with small tires and without brakes. The cockpit was open and the engine was fully cowled. In 1932 the Pobjoy P engine was replaced with a Pobjoy R of 75 hp. The cockpit was also enclosed. In 1933 Wittman lengthened the fuselage by 21 inches, removed the engine cowling and modified the rudder. In 1946 The engine was replaced with a Continental C-85.
The Howard DGA-3 "Pete", a.k.a. "Damned Good Airplane – 3", "Baker Special", and "Little Audrey" was the third aircraft built by Ben Howard, and the first in a series of racing aircraft. Howard claimed that the aircraft was so fast from his use of "Go Grease".
The DGA-3 was started as a side project based on getting the best performing aircraft using a Wright Gipsy engine Howard had available. The aircraft went from the drawing board to completion in eight months. The fuselage was made of welded steel tubing with aircraft fabric covering. The control surfaces were wood with plywood covering. The cockpit was sized to an absolute minimum. The axle between wheels was shaped like an airfoil, producing some of the lift. In 1947, "Pete" was rebuilt as the "Baker Special" with a Continental engine for midget racing. The aircraft was rebuilt once again by the Experimental Aircraft Association founder Paul Poberezny as "Little Audey". The aircraft was mounted with Luscombe wings and a Continental A-75.
1930 National Air Races – Howard flew five firsts and two third-place finishes at 163 mph.
1930 Thompson Trophy race, third place.
1931 National Air Races – three second, one fourth, and one sixth-place finish.
1932 National Air Races – one second place at 127.347 mph (205 km/h).
1933 Chicago Air Race – pilot Joe Jacobson flew to Two second and one fifth-place finish.
1933 International Air Race – one fourth, one fifth, and one sixth place with pilots Helen Lantz, Gordon Israel, and Art Gross.
1934 National Air Races – Joe Jacobson purchased and flew "Pete" to one fourth, and three fifth-place finishes at 159 mph.
1935 National Air Races – One third and one fourth-place finish at 147 mph.
1947 Goodyear races – As the "Baker Special" The aircraft was partially destroyed in a hangar fire after the races.
In 1953 "Pete" was rebuilt as a homebuilt sportsplane "Little Audrey". The aircraft flew until 1981. It was last owned and flown jointly by Victor Edwin Zinn and Walter Fritz who based the aircraft in Noblesville Indiana. After being slightly damaged in a runaway airplane incident Zinn and Fritz, both active EAA members elected to donate the aircraft to the EAA museum. It was once in the collection of the Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum. A restoration was performed and the aircraft was donated to the EAA Airventure Museum in Oshkosh, Wisconsin in 1991. Wikipedia
Rare Bear is a highly modified Grumman F8F Bearcat that dominated the Reno Air Races for decades.
The Bearcat that became Rare Bear was a severely damaged wreck when discovered by Lyle Shelton in 1969. It had been abandoned next to a runway in Valparaiso, Indiana after it crashed there from a throttle-on torque roll in 1962. The airplane had been stripped by parts hunters, so Shelton found a fuselage, wing center section, landing gear and a right wing panel, but little else. Shelton bought the wreck and had the pieces trucked to Orange County and restoration began. One of the major modifications made during the rebuild involved installing a more powerful Wright R-3350 (from a Douglas Skyraider) in place of the Pratt & Whitney R-2800 engine that is standard for a Bearcat. A Douglas DC-7 propeller and cowl were used and Shelton bought the landing gear fairings and doors from the wreck of Bob Kucera's Bearcat. Bill Fornoff loaned him a left wing panel and Gunter Balz supplied a rudder. The windshield and canopy were supplied by Edward T. Maloney. The rebuild was finished with the first flight on 13 September 1969.
Rare Bear has set many performance records for piston-driven aircraft, including the 3 km World Speed Record of 528.33 mph (850.26 km/h) set August 21, 1989, which still stands in his class, and a new time-to-climb record (3,000 meters in 91.9 seconds set in 1972 (9842.4 ft - 6,426 fpm), breaking a 1946 record set in a stock Bearcat).
The Brown B-2 Racer was an American-built small monoplane racing aircraft built in 1934.
The B-2 Racer was built in 1934 by the Brown Aircraft Co. of Montebello, California, which had been founded by Lawrence W. Brown, previously of Clover Field, Santa Monica, California.
The aircraft, dubbed "Miss Los Angeles" was designed for competitive flying. The low-winged monoplane was designed with a minimal cross-section to reduce drag. It had an open single-person cockpit and a fixed tail-skid undercarriage like its predecessor, the B-1.
"Miss Los Angeles" made her debut at the 1934 National Air Races fully decked out in a distinctive scarlet paint with lettering and accents in gold leaf. Entered in the inaugural three-race Greve Trophy competition and flown by Roy Minor, she took first place in speed with 213.257 mph. Shortly thereafter "Miss Los Angeles" turned up at the Thompson Trophy race as the only "new" competitor and flew smartly for a second-place trophy.
The B-2 participated in the 1935 National Air Races flown by Marion McKeen, but could manage no better than fifth place for the Greve Trophy. McKeen piloted the plane again in the 1936 and 1937 races, finishing fifth each year.
"Miss Los Angeles" was absent from the 1938 racing season due to crash damage, but turned up at the National Air Races in 1939 with a cantilevered wing of a 21-foot span and retractable landing gear. These modifications were undone when it was determined they were ineffective. During the Greve Trophy races, pilot Lee Williams experienced an engine failure while turning into the scatter pylon, stalled and crashed fatally.
A replica built by Ed Marquart for Bill Turner, renowned replicator of Golden Age racers is currently part of the collection at Fantasy of Flight in Polk City, Florida...
Instead of paying 3000 Depression-era dollars for an antiquated biplane, the young enthusiast could buy a Heath-Kit for $199, and build the plane at home!
In the wake of the "Lindbergh Boom" thousands of such projects were started, in barns and basements, throughout the United States and a score of foreign countries. This book recounts the personal experiences of several such young "builders", offering a realistic insight into their many trials and tribulations.
Heath's air racing career, which both promoted and financed his plane manufacturing enterprises, was also a spectacular success. At the 1928 National Air Races his diminutive "Baby Bullet" won every race it entered. With a top speed of over 150 MPH, it easily outran planes three times its size and horsepower. A mysterious crash of an experimental low-wing model took Heath's life on February 1, 1931. Both the New York Times and Chicago Tribune covered the story of the tragedy, but none could account for the unusual wing failure of a previously trouble-free design.
The Wittman D-12 "Bonzo" was an air racer designed by Steve Wittman for the Thompson Trophy races. The aircraft's top speed of 325 mph (523 km/h) made it faster than any United States military aircraft of the era.
Wittman purchased a Curtiss D-12 engine in 1934, and designed "Bonzo" around it. In 1936, a spring steel landing gear was installed. In 1937 a ducted fan was added to the spinner inlet, flaps were added and wingspan was reduced to 17 ft (5 m). Ram air was added for the carburetors, and modified several times to get even fuel pressure.
"Bonzo" featured a mid-winged taildragger design with a small squarish cross-section. The aircraft was finished in red and silver, like Wittman's smaller racer "Chief Oshkosh". The spinner featured a center cut-out to provide cooling air to a radiator. The wings were made of wood with aircraft fabric covering and closely spaced wing ribs.
The Crosby CR-4 is a racing aircraft developed in the late 1930s
The Crosby CR-4 is the follow-on of the Menasco C6S-4 powered Crosby CR-3 (a.k.a. C6R-3) designed to be powered by a twelve-cylinder Ranger V-770 engine. The aircraft was designed while Crosby was recovering with a broken back and fractured skull from the 1936 crash of his all metal CR-3. Despite a prior failure causing a crash, money shortages prompted Crosby to reuse the Menasco C6S-4 engine from his former racer. Funding for construction came from fellow racer Kieth Rider. Students from the Curtiss-Wright Technical Institute in Glendale, California assembled the aircraft.
The CR-4 is a low-wing monoplane with conventional landing gear. The construction is all-metal stressed skin. The triangular wings featured a straight leading edge with a long chord tapering to a point at the wingtips. The left cowling held a combination oil tank and surface cooler. The seat and canopy adjusted up six inched in travel for take off and landing visibility. The landing gear used compressed air from a Lux air bottle rather than mechanical or hydraulic mechanism. Copper filings found later in the line, combined with wind resistance prevented on leg from locking. --WIKIPEDIA
Wedell-Williams, Inc. was organized in 1928 by pilot/designer James Wedell and millionaire Harry Williams, they offered charter services, passenger flights, and flying lessons. They then branched into manufacturing, starting with sport types, then racing aircraft. At the 1931 races, Jimmy Wedell came in second place in the Thompson Trophy event behind Lowell Bayles in the Gee Bee "Z" in what was the great contest between ideas, the tear-drop of the Gee Bee's and the long narrow shape of the Wedell-Williams which went into 1932. Among those impressed by the Wedell racer was Roscoe Turner, who contracted for a new Wedell-Williams racer. Since the Wedell-Williams were busy with their own projects, Roscoe had his mechanic Don Young build a major portion of the racer. No drawings existed for the racer, so Don had to measure one of the other racers to get the correct dimensions, Jimmy would also rattle off tubing dimensions. Once Don finished the racer, Jimmy took it for a test flight. After he landed, Harry said Roscoe weighed more than Jimmy did, so another test flight should be flown with weights added to the seat to equal the weight of Roscoe. During a high speed pass, a wing failed and Jimmy just managed to get out and the chute open before he and the plane hit. A second strengthened machine passed all tests, becoming the famous #121 "Gilmore Red Lion", lead a long life and is now in the Crawford Museum. Photo's of Roscoe's planes throughout his career shows he mastered the art of sponsorship.--by Brad Hagen
What makes this modified P-51 racer so unique, in addition to substituting the standard Rolls engine with a single 4-bladed propeller, and the use of a Rolls Giffon engine with two 3-bladed contra-rotating propellers is its use of swept Learjet wings and tail surfaces. The theory was the swept back flying surfaces would help delay the onset of compressability of air upon the aircraft as it approaches Mach (speed of sound). Unfortunately, the Learjet wings were not designed for low altitude and extreme G-maneuvers and was met with catastrophic results. The landing gears were taken off of a Piper Aerostar as they have a higher operating limit than the standard P-51 gears.
Hawker Sea Fury T Mk 20 "Critical Mass:
This racer is owned by Tom Dewelle and flown by Skip Holm as pilot. Skip Holm used to be Lockheed's test pilot on the F-117 Stealth fighter program. Extreme modifications to the Sea Fury include: elimination of all naval equipment such as folding wings and tail hook, clipping of the wings by ten feet, revision of canopy, removal of all protective armor, change of engine from the original Bristol Centaurus of 2,480 horsepower to a highly souped up Wright R-3350 nearly doublng the horsepower, increase in vertical tail to compensate for increase in power and torque, and smoothing out the flying surfaces of any rivets and/or paneling. Some people might ask "Why not simply substitute a P&W 4360 (28 cylinder) capable of producing 4,300 hp in stock configuration? This was done to the F4U Corsair, making it into an F2G. This is where weight and balance comes into play and the weight of the Pratt is nearly 1,000 pounds more than the Wright. In air racing, weight is even more critical; hence the removal of all unnecessary equipment. With careful manipulation of exotic fuels and adjustments of the "power recovery turbines" they can increase the power of the Wright to nearly that of the Pratt without an increase in weight.-- by Gary/Skyediamonds
Roscoe-Turner RT-14 "Meteor"
In 1936, Col. Roscoe Turner, an old timer in the race game, felt the need of a new racing mount. Colonel Turner, Nevada National Guard, had been a famous name in race history since 1924. Along with his robin's egg blue uniform, whipcord breeches, military cap, gold wings with RT in bold letters, he also had Gilmore his pet lion. Gilmore accompanied Roscoe on most of his cross country record breaking flights and his name, along with the flashy uniform, became synonymous with Colonel Turner. Roscoe had set many records with his Lockheed Vega, Air Express, and Wedell Williams but the Wedell was getting outclassed and in 1936 Turner contracted with Lawrence W. Brown Aircraft Company to build him a new racing aircraft. The racer was designed by Turner himself and engineered by Howard Barlow of the University of Minnesota. The ship *as built at the Brown factory in California and completed in mid-year 1936. It was a full cantilever mid-wing monoplane, fixed gear and powered by a Twin Wasp Sr., 1830 cu. in. 1000 hp engine. The wing span of the original racer was approximately 22 ft. and quite narrow in chord. The fuselage was constructed of chrome-moly tubing with spruce and fabric fairing. The two solid wing spars were of 14 ply laminated spruce, ribs were reinforced plywood and the leading edge metal covered. The fuselage was covered with metal from the engine cow] to the cockpit and from this point rearward Irish linen was used for covering. There was also a strip along the bottom of the fuselage that was metal covered to protect this portion from flying stones during take-off and landings. The rudder faired smoothly into the tail cone of the fuselage, giving an uninterrupted airflow line. The stabilizers were constructed of wood and the elevators and rudder were steel tubing. All were fabric covered. The paint job was a silver gray, license number R263Y and race number 29. The wheels were un-spatted but were thin and equipped with full side caps. Turner flew out to California to test the aircraft but after looking it over decided it was too heavy for the narrow wing. The racer was never flown with the narrow wing but was taken apart and shipped to the Laird factory at Chicago. Turner then redesigned the wing and Matty Laird rebuilt the racer in his factory.
The Type R "Mystery Ships" were a series of wire-braced, low-wing racing airplanes built by the Travel Air company in the late 1920s and early 1930s. They were so called, because the first three aircraft of the series (R614K, R613K, B11D) were built entirely in secrecy.
In total, five Type Rs were built and flown by some of the most notable flyers of the day, including Jimmy Doolittle, Doug Davis, Frank Hawks, and Pancho Barnes, not only in races but also at air shows across the United States, and most notably, by Hawks in Europe.
Under construction during 1928, the aircraft was kept under cover prior to the 1929 Cleveland Air Races, with the builders even going so far painting the windows on the factory to keep the curious press from getting a look at it. The local Wichita paper picked up on the secret program, with one reporter even going so far as to scale a ladder to try to peek into the vents in the factory roof. The paper dubbed it the "Mystery Ship" and the name stuck with R (for Rawdon) added. Rawdon and Burnham both knew that to approach Travel Air CEO Walter Beech would be fruitless, unless they hit him with the idea just before the air racing season began, so they designed the aircraft in their spare time, without pay until they could get Beech to agree to build the type.
The "Mystery Ship" that Matt Younkin is performing in today was re-created using original factory plans by Matt's grandfather, Jim Younkin in 1979. Younkin's replica is the only flying example of a Travel Air "Mystery Ship" that exists today.
The Travel Air Model "R" is considered to be the grandfather of all air racers. Doug Davis's 1929 Thompson Trophy win sparked a revolution that would bring salty mail pilots and war veterans into the public spotlight as race winning heroes. In addition, everyone with a new idea for building a lighter faster airplane began turning their dreams into reality in garages and workshops all across the country with the hope of winning next years big race!
The "Mystery Ship" was designed by Herb Rawdon and Walter Burnham under the guidance of Travel Air Company owner and founder Walter Beech. (Walter Beech would later found Beechcraft which is still one of the most successful aircraft companies in the world today.)
Keith Rider had at least one more racer up his sleeve as in 1938 the R-6 appeared. This was all plywood covered and perhaps departed in portions from the Rider design but the heritage could not be mistaken. It was powered by a six cylinder Menasco Buccaneer engine and, as the rest of the Rider racers, had a retractable landing gear. It was a gear similar to the R-4 and R-5. It had a wing span of 18 ft. 5 in. and was 19 ft. long. Dubbed the "8 Ball" it was painted a pale blue and had a large "8 Ball" insignia on either side of the fuselage....